As I wrote in my first entry, my intentions are to spend the next year performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and sharing those experiences with others on this site. I have spent some time trying to figure out the best way to structure this endeavor (between researching what my husband should buy me for my 40th birthday.)
I thought about alternating between one spiritual work and one corporal work, but the more I researched each I began to realize that there is often overlap.
Then the math doesn’t add up. I couldn’t concentrate on one per month because there are 14 and I really think those extra two months of good deeds, may send me over the edge. What if I end up wearing Birkenstocks, growing hair under my armpits and standing on street corners dancing to Gospel music? I can’t do that. I‘ve got no rhythm, and those people who dance on street corners and storefronts soliciting business- they’ve got moves. Admittedly some are quite bizarre, but still I wouldn’t want to disgrace God with my moves.
Another huge hesitation I had was that the first spiritual work of mercy on the list is to admonish sinners. Of course, the material I have read explains how well-intentioned this one is while also admitting that it is very difficult to do without seeming judgmental.
I hate conflict. I am a middle child and like Rodney King, I really do just want people to get along. A month of confrontations didn’t really seem like something I could handle. Yes, I am a coward, but so were the Apostles and they all became Saints (with the exception of Judas.)
In the end I decided I would commit to completing all 14 acts of mercy in a myriad of small and obvious ways, and write about them at least once a week.
The acts of Mercy are really all quite simple.
Corporal Works of Mercy:
(1) Feed the hungry.
(2) Give drink to the thirsty.
(3) Clothe the naked.
(4) Shelter the homeless.
(5) Visit those in prison.
(6) Comfort the sick.
(7) Bury the dead.
Spiritual Works of Mercy:
(1) Admonish sinners.
(2) Instruct the uninformed.
(3) Counsel the doubtful.
(4) Comfort the sorrowful.
(5) Be patient with those in error.
(6) Forgive offenses.
(7) Pray for the living and the dead.
Like all of God’s commandments they can be summed up by doing unto others as you would have done to you. This is from Matthew 7:12. I am not a big Bible reader and certainly not someone who can spout numbers accompanied by fancy colons at cocktail parties.
Yet I am familiar with this command and understand it to be the greatest of all commandments. While it is simple and yes, brilliant, it is also very challenging to do with all the distractions in our lives. (Not to mention the fact that some people don’t even treat themselves very well, so the whole way they view others will naturally be a little skewed.)
My mother is an incredibly compassionate and kind person. I may not have given a very favorable impression of her in my first entry because she was too good at performing the first spiritual work of mercy, and perpetually aggravating me with admonishments. But she is a good person.
Any way, we were having lunch a few weeks ago and our busboy was obviously mentally disabled. My mom went out of her way to be kind to him, handing him extra money and telling him he was her favorite (kind of like she did with me and my siblings except she didn’t pay us.) It was obvious that this made him happy, and I am sure proud. It wasn’t anything profound. It was simple, but it was certainly kind and sincere.
It also made me think how much easier it is to be kind to someone we don’t know. Someone who has not hurt us and someone we have no responsibilities to. This isn’t to take away from my mother’s deed. It just made me realize in all my genuine enthusiasm for beginning this project and coming up with these diverse ways to help people in my community, I would be remiss to discount those closest to me. Not just for their sake, but for mine.
I know for me that will be the most challenging work. Perhaps, it will also be the most rewarding by enriching the relationships I have with those people I love the most; despite the fact that they can drive me nuts.
So I have set my intention on this – a year of acts of mercies, in any and every conceivable order with organizations, individuals and yes, I dare say those whom I hold most dear.